Pyrography 101: You may know as wood-burning or pokerwork – is the art of using a heated tool, like a metal poker, to burn images or words into the surface of wood or other materials.
It has a range of uses, such as sign-making and decoration, and by using different tools many varied effects can be created. Pyrography has been around for thousands of years, used as a means to decorate and inscribe names into wooden objects like instruments.
Pyrography 101: What Pyrography Actually Is
It’s also a fun and creative way to up-scale old wooden objects or furnishings around the home. Since the invention of the soldering iron in the early 20th century, lots of different types of pyrography tools have been invented and it’s relatively cheap even for a beginner to jump in and give the craft a go.
The Tools, the Materials, and the Know-How
There are lots of tools used for practicing pyrography: from new, modern wood-burning tools, to older methods including metal pokers heated in a fire or even sunlight concentrated through a lens.
Pyrography designs are most commonly burnt into wood and leather, and incredibly in-depth pieces of art can be created. Some artists even use clay or gourds to do pyrography on.
Simple and traditional pyrography can be done using almost any heated instrument and wood. However, there are lots of modern tools designed specifically for wood-burning that make the process a lot easier and allow for a greater range of affects.
These can all mostly be divided into three categories:
- Wire-nib burners
- Solid-point burners
- Laser cutters
Wire-nib burners are like metal pens, and have a variable temperature for working on different materials and getting different shades.
Solid-point burners have a brass tip that is heated to a fixed temperature and are very simple to learn to use.
Laser cutters can be expensive but they’re accurate, and while they’re usually set to cutting wood completely through, the settings can be adjusted to make them just burn the wood.
Most pyrography is worked on either wood or leather, and a skilled wood-burner with good equipment can make vivid art, with clear lines and delicate shading.
All types of wood can be categorized into either hardwood or softwood. Softwood burns faster than hardwood and also doesn’t require the tool to be as hot, meaning softwood is generally better for beginners.
Care must be taken when selecting the right wood or leather. Both are sometimes treated with chemicals that can be toxic when burned, so it’s important to know what you’re using.
But What Actually Is It Useful For?
With a little practice, a pyrographer can create something beautiful from almost any plain wooden item they find, be it an old table, a picture frame, or even salt and pepper shakers. Up-scaling is something any pyrographer could turn their hand to.
Pyrography is also perfect for making signs for shops or around the home – no one likes mixing up the container of salt with the container of sugar.
Along with that, like many so many crafts, pyrography is simply enjoyable in itself, and doesn’t require a lot to begin. A bit of caution, some practice, and a steady hand, and you could be turning out beautifully scorched creations in no time.